USA Weightlifting Features Q&A with Sullivan Aw...

Q&A with Sullivan Award finalist Darren Barnes

March 28, 2013, 12 p.m. (ET)

Q&A with Sullivan Award finalist Darren Barnes

By: Kevin Lougherty 

The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) announced on March 26 that USA Weightlifting athlete Darren Barnes is a finalist for the 2012 James E. Sullivan Award, which honors the nation's outstanding amateur athletes based on athleticism and sportsmanship. He is a finalist with Liz Brenner (University of Oregon) and Missy Franklin (USA Swimming), with the winner to be honored at an awards ceremony on April 16 at the AAU National Headquarters in Orlando, Fla.

USA Weightlifting caught up with Darren this week:

What does it mean to you to be a finalist?
It just means that my sport is becoming more popular and more unified. It really means a lot that there were enough people who care about the sport for me to even be in the final. It’s more for the sport than it is for myself.

If you win, you’d be the first weightlifter to win the Sullivan Award. What would that mean for USA Weightlifting?
If I were to be the first person (from USA Weightlifting) to win, I would just be speechless. I can’t think of any words to describe how great that would be. It would just be spectacular. It would just mean that weightlifting is getting more popular and more out there.

To be a Sullivan Award finalist, you must be well-rounded academically, athletically and in your community. Why is it important to you to be well-rounded?
I think it’s important for me to be well rounded because the decisions that I make for myself, my sport and my career are not specified yet—I’m not really sure yet what I want to do. So I think it’s best to be good or familiar with everything so you can have more variety, you can have more knowledge. I’m going to school for nursing right now, but I’m also involved in music and weightlifting. It just heightens the availability of your career.

What is sportsmanship to you?
There’s a quote that I have: “If you have a goal, you don’t do what you want to do anymore. You do what you have to do.” Sportsmanship is focusing on one thing and one thing only, having a goal and never giving up on that goal. That’s what I think sportsmanship is.

What would winning the Sullivan Award mean to you, especially being in the same conversation as past winners like Mark Spitz, Peyton Manning and Michael Phelps?
That would just be nerve-wracking, really. At first I didn’t think I had a chance (to make it as a finalist), but I knew that I couldn’t give up. I spread the word as quickly and as much as I could because if I had any chance for this award, I had to make everyone aware and everyone would have to pitch in at least one vote.

What is the best advice you have for aspiring weightlifters, especially those who want to do the sport the right way like you have?
I would say to stay open-minded because if you aren’t open-minded, there’s no way you can have a goal. You have to be able to work with any coach and do anything the coach says to you, you have to aspire to the best regardless of your level and you have to be self-motivating. For people who train alone, you have to find some way to find a goal to reach the top. You never give up. Never give up.